Have a look at the picture above which was tweeted by BBC Bristol and featured on eRadio this morning with the caption, ‘lots of people watching in the rain’. Is this what BBC Bristol call a great picture of a great event?
This happens too often. I was recently walking through my local shopping centre and a station (one that really should know better) was doing what they call a ‘live OB’ of sorts. All they had was a table, nothing visually impressive at all with the exception of a few pop up banners and a presenter with a couple of promotional staff wandering around handing out leaflets and such like. What they did have in terms of outside equipment looked like it needed replaced but I stood and watched as people walked by. No crowds, no interest, nothing, it was embarrassing. There was no show of any kind, nothing to keep people interested yet here they were in all their glory. I shook my head and wondered why they were doing this. An outside event, no matter what, is projecting an image of who you are. Stations go to great lengths to sound good on the air but when they step outside, they often throw it all away. You simply can’t afford to get these things wrong today. You look cheap, you are cheap, you are not the kind of station I want to be associated with. These are the thoughts that are often going through the minds of those who watch you in action.
In between so called live links back to the station, there was nothing going on whatsoever. Once or twice, the presenter shouted something on a mic. No one cared, no one listened. There was nothing to listen too, he was just an idiot with a loud toy. The days are long gone when you can turn up and just expect something to happen. We live in a world where everything must be pre planned; this is your audience for goodness sake and if you are going to be outside, then you need to impress with some kind of performance or at least project yourself in the most positive manner possible. You have to be constantly on your game. Certainly, tweeting a picture that doesn’t show you at your best is to be avoided.
This OB lark has been a pet hate of mine for some time. Either you have the budget to do this right such as (Capital, Heart, Free Radio, Absolute, TeamRock etc) and have a plan of what you are doing when you are there or I would urge you not to do it at all. And this goes for BBC Local Radio too. I have witnessed them presenting a live show from some location or other while wondering why the hell they are there when they can do this just as well in a studio. There is no point going outside if it reduces the value of what you do on the air. Most presenters I know hate doing live events anyway. 20 years ago, I could present a show from Blackpool and a couple of thousand people might turn up, today one man and a dog with a copy of Exchange and Mart in his pocket might go along. Life today is very different and while some do indeed present themselves very well, others, as often seen in eRadio, need a lot more thought. The worst are those who have agreed to do something for a client and have dropped their trousers and standards for a few quid. It may be a revenue earner but sadly the station often loses more than they gain. A listener cannot unsee what they’ve seen! And while I am at it, can I vent my anger at the stuff local stations give out in the name of promotional gifts. Most people don’t want it, don’t need it or even value it. You don’t need lots of things, you just the right things.
When deciding to go outside or not you have to ask yourself lots of questions. Why are we there? What is the reason? Are we at an event or are WE the event? How are we going to do it? Is it because we want to or because we need to? Is there a good budget? Do we have a plan? How are we going to look? Are we going to entertain anyone? What is our image? Are we on a stage or in a corner? Is this for a client or to make some money?…. If someone came along and saw what we were doing, would they be impressed? You are promoting your brand, something you have invested greatly in. Are you sure you want to do this? PS. You don’t have to be a big station to look impressive either. The smallest can do it just as well with some clever ideas.
The bottom line is this: Radio stations should only venture out of their studios with the greatest of caution. Do it right or don’t do it at all. No one has ever rang a radio station to complain that you were not at an event, but thousands have often walked away disappointed when you did!